Exclusive – Darling: Obama Holdovers Compromise U.S. Nuclear Security

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Back in the Reagan Administration, the saying “Personnel is Policy” was a mantra. The fear was that holdovers from the Carter Administration and liberal bureaucrats would hijack President Reagan’s policies in a way that undermined Reagan’s Peace Through Strength guiding philosophy.

Right now, Obama Administration holdovers and Never-Trump bureaucrats have undermined Trump’s America First policies.

A potentially dangerous nest of Deep State contagion in Washington resides in the little-known National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The NNSA is a “semi-autonomous” agency of the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s in charge of maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The NNSA directs 9 sites throughout the country, including three major national weapons laboratories, which together employ many thousands of government workers and contractors.

NNSA is trying to give up something we’ve never had before: international inspections of key Russian nuclear facilities. And with only a single exception, each member of NNSA’s leadership team was put into his or her position by the Obama administration.

One of NNSA’s post-Cold War missions is to remove or destroy nuclear weapons materials from former Soviet states – and even from Russia itself.

Plutonium, a deadly and long-lived radioactive material, merited its own separate agreement with the Russians. Near the close of the Clinton era, the White House and the Kremlin signed the Plutonium Management & Disposition Agreement of 2000 (PMDA).

Under the PMDA, each side committed to destroying the weapons potential of at least 34 metric tons of its own surplus weapons grade plutonium (that’s 68 metric tons in total, enough for about 17,000 warheads).

To do this, both countries would build “MOX” (“Mixed Oxide Fuel”) facilities in which civilian nuclear reactor fuel is created from a mixture of small amounts of plutonium and low-grade uranium. After the MOX fuel is “burned” to generate electricity in utility nuclear power plants, the weapons potential of the original plutonium is forever destroyed. We get electricity and weapons destruction.

The U.S. broke ground in 2007 on its MOX facility in South Carolina. It’s now around 70 percent complete, after an expenditure of $5 billion. And, the Russians kept to the deal. They finished a MOX plant in Zheleznogorsk and built so–called “fast reactors” to burn the fuel. Their program accepted international inspections to prevent their “fast reactors” from becoming “breeder reactors” for making yet more plutonium.

They were to open their books to the world.

That’s gone, at least for now, because Russia “suspended” its participation in the PMDA in October 2016 as a response to Obama’s campaign to kill the U.S. MOX program. And just a couple of months ago, the Russians repeated their position as one taken in response to the same Obama people doing the same thing in the Trump administration.

The Deep Staters offer a phony alternative to MOX for plutonium disposal: diluting it and sending it to the underground “WIPP” facility in New Mexico. That violates the PMDA by keeping the plutonium “isotopically” intact – still weapons-grade – and ignores what the Government Accountability Office (GAO) itself confirmed in September: WIPP is already 26,000 cubic meters short of capacity to do the job Congress specified in 1992, to accept low-level waste from DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratory complex. There’s no room at the inn for MOX plutonium.

Let’s add insult to injury of the Trump electoral base. MOX provides 2,100 high-skill and high-wage jobs in South Carolina, a critical Trump state in last year’s primaries. Major MOX champions are Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. Governor Henry McMaster (an early Trump supporter) is focused like a laser beam on MOX.

The Deep State has really done it this time. It’s managed in a single Obama policy to compromise American safety, while betraying the president’s electoral base. And it’s done it in defiance of congress, which throughout the Obama era, and continuing through today, has continued to fund and require MOX construction.

If there’s a surprise here, it’s that Energy Secretary Rick Perry – a stalwart nuclear technology champion – has so passively accepted whatever the Obama people have handed him, seemingly with no questions asked.

The NNSA is surely a swamp to be drained while its Obama-era policy is reversed.  Personnel is policy and the NNSA should depleted of Obama holdovers and liberal bureaucrats who don’t support an America First policy.

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